CD Reviews – August 2016 Part 1

Beethoven: Violin Concerto In D Op 61; Schumann: Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra Op 131; Mozart-Francaix: Nonetto
Sebastian Bohren (violin),
Chaarts Chamber Artists
RCA Gold Seal
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

This version of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is very recommendable. Sebastian Bohren’s performance is very classical; his tone is more French in style than the often heard thicker Russian style. He phrases elegantly and coaxes a beautiful tone from his instrument. His soft, pure phrasing is very welcome in the quieter passages. The orchestra (apparently conducted by Bohrens as no other conductor is mentioned) plays beautifully and the balance between the soloist and the orchestra is good. Not so much can be said for the other items on this disc. Schumann’s Fantasia, written at the request of the famous violinist Joachim, dates from a time late in his career when inspiration was at a low ebb. It has some moments of beauty and interest but is one of the world’s justly neglected scores. Bohrens and the orchestra do all they can to recommend the work, but it fails to make much of an impression. The Mozart- Francaix Nonetto is an arrangement by Francaix of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds K. 452. In view of the fact that, at the time it was written, Mozart considered this his finest work, Francaix’s intrusion is unwelcome. The delight of Mozart’s score lies in the contrast between the sound of the piano and that of the winds. Francaix adds a string quartet and eliminates the piano which destroys Mozart’s original effect and is itself distracting.

– Richard Gate

Capture.PNGButterflying – Piano Music by Elena Kats-Chernin
ABC Classics
✶ ✶ ✶

Tamara-Anna Cislowska joins Elena Kats- Chernin on this CD, performing music inspired by varying styles, some dedicated to various friends and some straightforward commissions. Whilst the playing easily captures the moods, the music itself is not always sufficiently continually exciting and interesting but often meanders without a sense of climax giving a feeling of aimlessness, particularly harmonically speaking. As Kats-Chernin says: “When I am at the piano I try and let my hands travel wherever they will. Stravinsky said the fingers are much quicker than the brain and I find that true for me. I sit for hours sifting and drafting through material until I find something that I like”. This certainly provides a strong indication of how she conceives the music. Most of it has been written for individuals and lots for particular occasions whilst some are extracted from larger scale works particularly The Three Dancers and Butterflying, the opening work on the CD which was written for the 2003 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony in a version for full orchestra. Plenty of world premieres are there, including The Rain Puzzle where the performer chooses the articulation, dynamics and tempo, VocaliseConversations in addition to the Russian Rag, a very captivating and a most attractive work. Lots of works feature dances – tangos, waltzes, dance of the Paper Umbrellas written for the HUSH CD project. Russian Toccata produces plenty of energy and excitement from nimble fingers.

– Emyr Evans

Capture.PNGThe Truly Unforgettable Voice Of Florence Foster Jenkins
Sony Music
✶ ✶ ✶ 

If we ever thought and worried about the competence of a singer especially when that singer is considered a distinguished and competent musician we would probably be drawn towards Florence Foster Jenkins and you wouldn’t believe what you were hearing. An American, she declined to appear in New York more often than once a year and rarely anywhere else except such favoured centres as Washington and Newport. For years her annual recital at the Ritz Carlton was a private ceremonial for the select few. Finally, on 25 October, 1944, Florence Foster Jenkins took the big step. Forsaking the brocade atmosphere of a fashionable hotel ballroom, she braved Carnegie Hall. There are those who claim that her death one month and a day later was the result of a broken heart – as unlikely is the story that her career was all a huge joke at the public’s expense, a pretty expensive joke, incidentally, since Carnegie Hall was sold out weeks in advance and grossed something like $6,000. Neither her parents nor her husband gave any encouragement whatsoever to her musical ambitions, but with her divorce and the money inherited from her father she was free to turn her sights on New York where she showed an abundance of her largesse. After a taxicab crash in 1943 she found she could sing a higher top F than ever before. Instead of a lawsuit against the taxicab company, she sent the driver a box of expensive cigars. Although high coloratura was Madame Jenkins’ particular province, she also ventured into the quieter realm of lieder. She opened her 1934 program with Die Mainacht of Brahms. Under the title was this quote: “O, singer, if thou canst not dream, leave this song unsung.” Nobody will ever say Florence Foster Jenkins couldn’t dream.

– EE


These reviews appeared in the August edition of Fine Music Magazine – you can subscribe to our monthly magazine and have it posted to your home or business or click the link here to read online.


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